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Jury takes break in Graham case

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FINDLAY - A jury here deliberated for seven hours yesterday before breaking for the night in the case of a rural Rawson man accused of beating and torturing a 13-year-old girl and then burying her alive in a drainage tile.

Nathan Graham, 23, who has defended himself during the nearly three-week-long trial, faces 14 charges in connection with the Feb. 12, 1999, attack, including attempted murder, rape, felonious assault, and trafficking in LSD.

The jury of six men and six women began deliberating at 3:10 p.m. in Hancock County Common Pleas Court, taking only a 20-minute break to eat pizza. They were sent home by the judge about 10:15 p.m. Deliberations were expected to resume this morning at 9:30.

Graham, who appeared calm as he carried law books and legal files into the courtroom for closing arguments, could receive more than 150 years in prison if convicted on all counts.

The defendant took the stand last week, telling the jury he did not want to hurt the victim and actually saved her, removing her from the tile where she had been left to die.

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Hancock County Prosecutor Robert Fry points to Graham, in foreground, at left, as the leader in the attack on a 13-year-old girl Feb. 12, 1999.

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Graham said it was others - not him - who were involved in assaulting the girl. Five people already have been convicted of beating the girl because she flirted with men at a Findlay party.

But Hancock County Prosecutor Robert Fry told jurors in his closing arguments that Graham's story was flawed. He said Graham's intent was to kill the victim.

“Don't fall for this story that he concocted, “ Mr. Fry said. “I submit to you that when he walked away from that well, she was going to die.”

Mr. Fry described the incident as “the worst beating I've ever seen.” He said the girl was a “bloody mess” and was hospitalized for six days after the attack.

Her clothes were cut off with a knife before she was forced to perform sex acts on herself.

Even if jurors believed Graham's defense, Mr. Fry said it still didn't erase other charges against him.

“His grandiose plan, his savior defense, is no defense for any of these other offenses,” Mr. Fry said in his hour-long closing argument.

At one point during Mr. Fry's remarks, Graham leaned over and consulted with Toledo attorney Spiros Cocoves, his advisory counsel, before he raised an objection.

Graham said Mr. Fry was “giving jury instructions” in his statements. Judge Joseph Niemeyer agreed.

But Graham later elected not to give his own closing arguments, saying it wouldn't provide additional evidence in the case. He said little else in court yesterday.

Graham had been portrayed by prosecutors as the ringleader in the girl's night of terror.

The victim was beaten after she attended a party on Tiffin Avenue. Witnesses told police the girl had been flirting with the men at the party, which angered their girlfriends.

Authorities said three women began punching the girl, then others joined in the beating.

Graham had testified that he stopped at the party briefly around 7 p.m. but did not return until nearly 1:30 a.m. He said he had no idea why some of the partygoers began assaulting the girl, and that he only made it appear he was participating.

He said he was unaware that Philip Cramer and others from the party had tied the girl up, placed her in the trunk of a borrowed car, and driven to her to his Rawson area farm.

While there, Graham said he devised a place to scare the girl so she would not go to authorities. At one point, he said he put an unloaded gun near her head and pulled the trigger.

Graham said he later suggested placing the girl in a well in nearby woods where they could cover the opening and leave her. The defendant said he later went back and saved the girl.

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